EFP 115: Building An eCommerce Brand From Scratch

Justin Cooke Justin Cooke November 8, 2014

eCommerce stores aren’t the easiest websites to build, but they can be really profitable if executed well. There are plenty of online courses that will help beginners get started.

Introducing Mark Brenwall and Creating an eCommerce Brand

Today, we sit down with Mark Brenwall to discuss his transition from buying and selling niche sites to building an eCommerce brand from scratch.

We’ll be digging into Mark’s process for niche selection, traffic strategies, and we’ll be sharing behind-the-scenes numbers on his budding eCommerce business (grossing over 11K/mo.)

Check Out This Week’s Episode Here:

Direct Download – Right Click, Save As

Topics Discussed This Week Include:

  • Mark’s sales, margins, and costs for running his store
  • How Mark found his niche
  • Why Mark sources his products directly instead of drop shipping
  • Traffic strategies to growing an eCommerce store
  • Tips for beginners looking to get started
  • Recommended reads for beginners

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Do you have any questions for Mark on how he grew his eCommerce business? Hit him up in the comments!

 

Speaker 1:           Welcome to the Empire podcast, episode 115. Today we sit down with Mark Brenwall to discuss his transition from buying and selling niche sites to build an ecommerce brand from scratch. We’re going to dig into niche selection, traffic strategies, and sharing some of the behind the scenes numbers on his budding be commerce business. I do like this interview because he went into some great depth. If you’re looking to build an ecommerce business, you can find the show notes and all links discuss this episode@empireflippers.com/scratch all right, let’s do this.

Speaker 2:           Sick of listening to entrepreneurial advice from guys with day jobs once a year about the real successes and failures that come with building an online empire. You are not alone from San Diego to Tokyo, New York to Bangkok. Join thousands of entrepreneurs and investors who are prioritizing wealth and personal freedom over the oppression of an office cubicle. Check out the empire podcast and now your house Justin and Joe.

Speaker 1:           Sourcing Products from China sounds scary as how if you’ve never done it before. If you’re looking to build an ecommerce site and you say, I’m going to build a product, I’m going to have my product manufactured in China, I’m going to ship it to my warehouse, they’re going to ship it out to my customers. I have no idea where to start with that just sounds so freaky.

Speaker 3:           Yeah. It is definitely something that everyone to think finds a little bit intimidating. You were like, Oh, I’m just going to go to Canton fair and find a manufacturer. I’ll go on Alibaba and find a supplier and I’ll just get it done. But it never seems to be that easy, so-

Speaker 1:           It’s easy to say, yeah, I’ll just go to Alibaba. I’ll just go to China and set myself up with a product. But like actually doing it like entrepreneurs, talk about that. Oh, just go get your product here. He just went boom, get it done. But the steps to actually getting it done sounds a little intimidating if you’ve never done it before. And that’s where I was really excited to talk to mark because he’s just kind of been through this. He actually just got back from the Canton fair and is really walked through the steps in and he walked through the steps of being in this interview. I think it would be great for our listeners.

Speaker 3:           I think it’s a little bit similar to software development and software development of a very complicated project. You know, product development, true physical product development. It can be intimidating as well.

Speaker 1:           All right buddy. Before we get into that, let’s take a quick break to pay the bills and look at hot money’s featured listing of the week. What you got for us this week, buddy.

Speaker 3:           So this week we’re talking about listing number 40,086 it’s an advertising online marketing site created back in 2008. It’s a community actually where people can learn online marketing from others and it’s monetize through ads and multiple affiliate programs. It’s making a little bit more than $4,800 a month right now and it gets some very, very good traffic. The thing I love about it is that it definitely has its own sort of traffic source that’s directly coming to the site. It’s kind of well known in its particular niche and it’s owned by a seller we know personally and I think he’s a good guy to buy from, but it’s coming in at $96,342, and I think that’s a good bargain for a site like this.

Speaker 1:           I like the fact that the site was created in 2008 so it’s definitely got some longevity. The sides grossing $7,200 a month and the expenses come out to about $2,400 a month, so it’s netting just under five grand a month and the page views overall, we’re talking right around a hundred thousand page views a month, so it’s definitely got some traffic.

Speaker 3:           Yeah, and it has the ability to really expand. If you look at the database of 200,000 members, 60,000 current email subscribers, it really has the ability to kind of take off as a brand and I think if the new owner really pushed kind of some things out there that are reasonable to the community, he could definitely increase net profit very quickly.

Speaker 1:           Cool. Yeah, I’d be doing interview with Sarah over the next week or two. If you want to check out this listing, make sure to go to our show notes and we’ll link see up there. Anyway, man, let’s get into the heart of this week’s episode.

Speaker 2:           Now for the heart of this week’s episode.

Speaker 1:           I’m really excited to have mark Brenwall back on the program. He was initially on our podcast and episode 52 where he was basically explaining his process for buying and selling sites and you know how I made six figures doing that. We were having to back on the show to talk about how he built an ecommerce brand from scratch. Talk about the numbers, dig into what he’s doing and how he’s making it work. So mark, thanks so much. Be on the show, man.

Mark:                    Yeah, I’m happy to be here.

Speaker 1:           All right buddy. So let’s talk about this. You had a transition from buying and selling websites over the last year and a half or so, and you transitioned into this kind of ecommerce business. What was the reason for the transition? Why did you change over?

Mark:                    Yeah, good question. You know, the buying and selling websites thing it was a fun and exciting for a while. But as I grew in the business, I just realized that it was a little too flimsy for me. It was a little bit too much power on Google to rank my sites and the to pay me the ad sense earnings and with any sort of SEO Algorithm change, we would affect my income dramatically. And I really didn’t have as much control over it as I want it. You know, as I was hearing that fear of losing everything, I started playing around with some other affiliate marketing things and one thing led to another and here I am in here, we’re talking today and not probably not even a year later. And my business has changed completely.

Speaker 1:           It’s funny about Google’s really a fickle bitch bad. It’s horrible, right? Like you go from just crushing it with Google to getting slapped and penalize and penguins and pandas and all kinds of things. And I know for a lot of people that’s been frustrating. I mean, whether it was losing their ad sense account or getting slapped around in the rankings, you know, that can be a bit disheartening and your new process doesn’t require Google in terms of rankings. And we’re going to get into that a bit before we even do that, man. Let’s talk about numbers. Like where are you at in terms of monthly sales in terms of margins?

Mark:                    So the product that I sell is sold on primarily on Amazon. And when I say primarily, I mean like 97%. I do have my own website, which also is actually fulfilled by Amazon, but it’s run through Shopify. So the numbers are I fell up product where I make roughly 50% margin and I sell that product for $25 a little less than $25 and I’m selling right now about between 15 and 20 a day. So really we’re looking at it a gross income of about 11,000 a month in a net profit of about 5,500.

Speaker 1:           Okay. This is $11,000 a month strictly through Amazon. These are people that are finding and we’ll just say the product is jump rope. They’re finding this jump rope through Amazon searching for different key terms or looking at related products or that type of thing.

Mark:                    That’s exactly right.

Speaker 1:           Now you actually have a Shopify site that does very little of your sales, but you have it up there anyway. And if anyone purchase from there, it’s actually fulfilled by Amazon, meaning they’re going to ship the product out there, warehousing everything. You have nothing to do with that. Is that right?

Mark:                    It’s awesome. I live here in Thailand. I don’t handle any of my products ever. I don’t manage returns. It’s all done by Amazon.

Speaker 1:           So we’re going to talk a little bit about how you do that and how that works. As we get into this. Let’s talk first about how you got into kind of the health or fitness or kind of crossfit niche to begin with. Like what was the kind of start for that.

Mark:                    So you know, this is sort of the typical journey of the entrepreneur. Which is I was feeling not so awesome about on the ad sense business, although you know I was making good that was making us figure income from that alone. I just sort of saw the warning signs. I started playing around and taking some online courses and I’m always learning. I always want to find someone who can teach me something new and I stumbled across this guy, his name is Ben Adkins who was teaching at the time just really building Facebook fan pages around niche topics. And so I got into a few different ones. Some of them were very successful, some of them are complete duds and I just ended up sticking with one in the fitness niche. That’s really all it started out to be. Like just how can I create a community and do some affiliate marketing to them. And you know, now I’m fully invested in creating products for that community and so on. I’m sure Amazon.

Speaker 1:           so I remember when this was rolling out, you were telling me about this kind of cool little Facebook thing you’ve got going and you had a couple of thousand followers I think. And you were basically buying them up at like a few cents per like. And you’d build out a couple of, you built one in like the Tattoo space, one in the kind of the crossfit or health space and then a few others that ended up kind of being duds. Tell me a little bit about the tattoo one. That one you got a bunch of likes but you it didn’t work out.

Mark:                    So that one I was actually really excited about because I was getting likes for probably less than a penny and it grew, it grew super fast and I spend like 20 bucks a day. You know, obviously I was racking up thousands of followers and no time and you know, finding good content for the page was very easy. You know, go on pinch jurist and find cool people wearing, have cool tattoos, but I just couldn’t figure out how to market anything to those people. Like what do you sell people who like tattoos. I mean I can’t-

Speaker 1:           Give them tattoos.

Mark:                    I can’t direct them to a place that does tattoos and really are people that are looking at a tattoo fan page necessarily. People that like to get tattoos. Are they just like hot people in Tattoos? I don’t know-

Speaker 1:           Or art or something. Right.

Mark:                    I didn’t understand the market I guess is really what it comes down to.

Speaker 1:           So it just wasn’t a good fit for you. And maybe it’s a market that, you know, they’ll like your page and they’ll share your images, but that’s not monetizable. And so that would be problematic anyway. That’s not something you want to target. So on the other hand, the kind of health crossfit workout space worked really well for you. You’re getting likes it, you know like a cent or 2 cents per?

Mark:                    Yeah, at the time I was getting likes it about 3 cents per and now it’s getting more expensive. I think that they want to try to keep it under 10 cents. So I’m probably paying between eight and 9 cents.

Speaker 1:           okay, so you were getting all these likes and your idea was, look, I like the space. I know you’re in to crossfit, I know you’re into working out. So you were like, I like this niche, I want to build an audience here and I’m going to figure something out with that. That was the initial, and then you followed that guy’s Facebook course, which you’re going to link to in the show notes, but you followed his Facebook course and said, look, I’m going to build this audience and we’ll figure it out. What to do with it later.

Mark:                    That’s exactly right.

Speaker 1:           Okay, so you started and then you had this, how big was your page before you started selling anything at all?

Mark:                    It wasn’t very big. I probably started right around 2000 followers.

Speaker 1:           Okay, so you started putting things up and you start off with like tee shirts I think from like tee spring or something.

Mark:                    Right. So actually it was, wasn’t tee shirts I think was my first one that because you know, even designing tee-shirts takes a little bit of effort. I was just testing can I sell anything to these people? So I believe my first product was a quick thing, recipe book based on the Paleo Diet.

Speaker 1:           Okay. So you started selling recipes with Paleo. How did that do is okay. And then you’ve got on a t-shirts a little later. You were basically just looking around for something that your audience would respond to and purchase. Right?

Mark:                    What I was really trying to do, yes. I was trying to see are they going to purchase anything. And really what I was trying to do is prove to myself that I could sustain and actually grow the page at no cost to me. Meaning that every like that I paid for, I got back in earnings and I did that very quickly, probably within the first month.

Speaker 1:           Okay. And then did you move on to physical products at some point?

Mark:                    I did move on but it took a while. I mean physical products are a challenge. Like to me before I got into selling a physical product of my own, I thought like that’s never going to happen. Like that’s not possible. Right?

Speaker 1:           Yeah. Cause like where do you go to get them? How do you get it manufactured? I know you can go to Alibaba but it just seems like such a hustle. So what was Kinda your first step there? When did you realize that there was a product that was probably a good fit for the market and how did you go about getting started?

Mark:                    So I actually … since I moved from the Philippines to Thailand in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand or happens to be quite a good expert community of Internet marketers, and I met somebody who was selling on Amazon and he’s like, you have a real winner here. Like at the time I think I had 50,000 followers on my page and I showed them this jump rope that I thought would be cool if I sold that, things like this, that’s for sure when, well I wasn’t that quick to believe him. So what I did was I created a very simple Shopify store. I send Facebook traffic to the Shopify store to buy a jump rope. When somebody bought the jump rope, I would go to Ebay and Ebay seller who is selling that jump rope and I would send them the jump rope that they bought from me and they would buy it from me at a premium. So again, I was just testing like, okay, are people going to buy an 18 or $20 jump rope?

Speaker 1:           How many did you sell? Like, what was kind of the determinant that made you realize, okay, I should go manufacturer these jump ropes?

Mark:                    Well, I was selling, you know, several a day, right? So it wasn’t just hitting her hit or miss here and there. It was consistent.

Speaker 1:           Okay. So you realized you’re selling a few, why not just take it straight to Amazon? You know what I mean? Why don’t I just send the traffic to Amazon, sell someone else’s stuff and good margin on that. Why did you feel the need to go actually create the jumper up yourself?

Mark:                    Well, there’s a lot more money to be made if you make it yourself. I mean, instead of the whatever, 5% you make, be an affiliate, you can make 50%.

Speaker 1:           Okay. So yeah, 7% margins, let’s say, depending on how many of are selling or whatever on Amazon versus 50% that’s significantly higher. So, okay, so you realize that there’s margin here. I know that, and you didn’t know this at the time, he had to go figure out how much you could manufacture it for. But where do you even start? So you realize, okay, jump ropes, people want to buy it off the Facebook page. That’s great. I want a manufacturer. So you go to Alibaba?

Mark:                    I did start with Alibaba. First let me just say like the idea of doing this is very overwhelming. It’s almost like putting a man on the moon. It’s like, how do I even start? I just want to say like, I think that started the art of being an entrepreneur is being okay being uncomfortable and being a beginner at everything. Because all I did was I just did the next right step, which was started with Alibaba, but then I started asking around like, who in my network is starting to be sold on Amazon and finding out more people and get any more information. And someone referred me to a sourcing agent so I wasn’t talking directly the factory. So it was just like following the trail.

Speaker 1:           So I love your point about being new and open to learning new things. You’re great at that in terms of like, you know, I don’t know this, you know, asking people to help me or show me or whatever. And you’re great at asking for that and because, and the way you ask if people are willing to help you out. I can see, I actually, I know people, I know a guy named Noah and others that would stop at this point. They would sell via Ebay and just sell on the Shopify site and make you know, a little bit of margin, but you saw more opportunity and decided to go for it.

                                And that’s where I think a lot of people that are looking for a little cashflow, we’ll cut out right though India to say, okay, I’m making a bit of cash here. I’ll just continue rolling down this path rather than going for the bigger score, which I think is manufacturing yourself. So you look at Alibaba, you find some people that are manufacturing in jump ropes that seem close. And then what do you do? You Fly to China, you find a guy got connected to a guy in China, right?

Mark:                    I definitely didn’t fly to China and I wouldn’t recommend that to anybody who’s just starting out. I got a few samples on my own. I’m just going down the path, like actually working with a manufacturer and getting prices myself. And then I’m part of the dynamite circle. So I got connected with a guy who lives in Guangzhou China, which is in the southern Canton area who does sourcing and he’s a Canadian who lives in Guangzhou speaks perfect Cantonese or mandarin, I don’t even know which to be honest with you. And he said, okay, mark, you know, find whatever prices you can find on Alibaba yourself. And then when you’re ready to work with me, I will do all the shipping, do all the sourcing, handle all the QA and still get you a cheaper price than you can find on Alibaba.

Speaker 1:           Okay. So that’s an opportunity for you to shop and see how low you can get this. So you’re shopping around online and through phone calls or just email?

Mark:                    It’s all done through email and Skype.

Speaker 1:           Okay. So you’re doing email and Skype, you’re trying to find the cheapest price you can get because you want to see if this guy can beat it. And did you think he’d be able to be at this point? Do you think you’d be able to beat him?

Mark:                    Well, given the fact that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I was probably doing a thousand things wrong. Which is, you know my order quantity was very small. All a hundred units, like any serious factor wouldn’t even talk to you for that. So they’ll give you the highest price they can get. See if you’re an idiot and then we’ll take it. So having someone who can actually go to the factory, speak in their language, knows the culture, made a big difference. At the same time you need it. I know who have done it without that. I’m just saying that wasn’t a resource that I had available to me. And so I took it.

Speaker 1:           So did it help him though that you’d already like bought a couple of samples, and I looked at the product, I mean probably just called this guy up randomly and said, hey, I want to source some stuff from China. He’s not really going to be able to help me. I need to be a little further down the line than that.

Mark:                    Well again, just like any business, he needs to validate people. So I went to China and I just met him and now after meeting with him I found out like he can’t chase every single lead that comes his way either. He needs to know that you’re serious about doing business and that you’re going to be a longterm client because that’s really where he makes his money. Not just start a sourcing the product one time, but over use sourcing and growing up and your order quantity, getting bigger each time.

Speaker 1:           So he’s looking for people he can grow with. So it’s not just hey, I want to get started. Can you help me? It’s more of … I think I rubbed the product. I’ve got a couple of potential manufacturers I want to, you know, get this done and start pumping them out. Okay, so you started with him and your first order was how many? 500?

Mark:                    500.

Speaker 1:           Okay. So you did 500 where you like, luckily here’s a small, we know, we both know a guy in the crossfit space that does like the weights and it’s really, really expensive for shipping. So good for you. You have this like lightweight type product that you can ship. You don’t need a huge like container to, you know, fill up to put it in. So it’s a little bit better, but it’s still not cheap. Right?

Mark:                    It’s not cheap, and it’s not cheap because I only ordered 500, and it’s small. So it doesn’t make sense to ship it by sea at that point, which is how you make real savings while shipping, so I ship them by air. Now the advantage of course, is that it gets there very quickly. The downside is it’s very expensive.

Speaker 1:           so it’s sucked up your margins. But honestly, this is your first round anyway. You don’t particularly care. You just want to check that. See if it’s working. So, okay, so you get the 500 do you have someone inspect them? Did your guy in China … are you willing to share his information? I’ll put it in the show notes. By the way.

Mark:                    I probably won’t share his information just because I don’t think he’ll want people contacting them.

Speaker 1:           Ah, okay. So sneaky work. It’s a sneaky art. So anyway, you get the 500 they are done, I mean do you have someone inspect it or do you just ship a ride over the US?

Mark:                    Yeah. So here, this is sort of the challenge of living in Thailand. Now typically people get started in Amazon who live in America or maybe they or they sell, they sell in Germany, they live in Germany, that still on American and they live in America. And what people usually recommend is get the first shipments sent to your house, open it up, look at it, kicked tires a little bit, and then when you’re comfortable, send it to Amazon. Yeah, I didn’t have that ability. So I really had to have my guy take pictures of everything. Like show me the package, show me the packing slips, show me the boxes, show me how you’re palatalizing the box. There was a lot of faith.

Speaker 1:           So this is your guy and trying to take the pictures, making sure it looks good, making sure the product’s good before it gets shipped out to the US and then to Amazon.

Mark:                    That’s correct.

Speaker 1:           Okay. Now was he the one that took like the really high res photos? Cause I’ve seen your jump ropes and I’ve seen the image on Amazon is really high res photos. Did he do that or was that done somewhere else?

Mark:                    That was done by a professional photographer in the Philippines, actually.

Speaker 1:           In the Philippines? Okay. You have the product shipped to someone in the Philippines. Is that when you were in the Philippines?

Mark:                    Yeah. If I had a Filipino girlfriend last time we talked, but I live with a Filipino girl friend who you introduced me to Justin. She lives here in Thailand with me and she had to be back or a family event and so she took the jump rope with her. I met her there and we had a shot by one of her friends.

Speaker 1:           Okay, great. So you had the photos done, you’ve had the jump rope ship to Amazon is, do they give you an address to ship it to? Is it west coast, east coast, or you ship it to them and they take care of it from there?

Mark:                    Yeah. So Amazon will use the [inaudible 00:20:53] I pondered unit a hundred and a hundred in each box, a product and Amazon will reply. That’s great. I’m sending them to these three warehouses. So they actually have you do a little bit of dispersion yourself.

Speaker 1:           Okay. So you send a hundred here, 200 there, 200 there. Okay. So you’re splitting it up, you’re splitting up these jump ropes, and then you get them out there and then basically you just put them on Amazon and that’s it. They start selling.

Mark:                    Yeah. The trick is that you need to get the product brand. So you want people to be able to search for, speed jump rope or crossfit jump rope and have your products show up. Now that doesn’t just happen automatically. There’s an algorithm just like Google, and we think it has to do with conversion, right? So somebody searches for speed jump rope, they find my jump rope and they buy it. That’s like one vote for me to rank better for speed jump rope. Dotted chick for doing that is get a lot of sales right away. Now, because I had the Facebook page related to this niche, I basically did a super coupon and said, hey, if you guys buy this, I’m never going to give a better discount than I am right now. And so I sold in the first three days 150 jump ropes.

Speaker 1:           Oh Wow. And that was just to your Facebook audience. And the idea being, if I can convert a whole bunch of these, it’s gonna make my product look hot, and move up in the Amazon rankings. Basically tell Amazon that, hey, you know, this is progress. Should be seen for search terms. And then you started getting, did you ask for reviews? How did that work?

Mark:                    Yeah, so I think reviews are important just for the buyers. I don’t actually think it helps with the algorithm I don’t think helps you rank in Amazon, but it definitely, you know, I try to think of all this stuff as like how do I buy stuff on Amazon? And having a bunch of good reviews is obviously better. You know, getting the first 10, 20 reviews is really important.

Speaker 1:           Okay. So you got some good reviews. You have promoted yourself to your Facebook page to improve your rankings in Amazon. So now you’re starting to get traffic from Amazon straight up. So are probably showing up in the related searches around cross fit and working out and that’s helpful to you. And they’re doing that because they want to support themselves, they want to show people relevant results that people end up buying. So that’s pretty successful to you. And how many sales do you get up to a day you’re doing how many sales per day?

Mark:                    Literally between 15 and 25.

Speaker 1:           Okay. And you’re doing that now. At what point in that you sold 150 the first day or couple of days that, what point did you realize, oh my God, my 500 just ain’t gonna cut it?

Mark:                    Well, yeah, that’s a good point. So at first one I ordered 500 I’m like, how am I going to sell a 500 company? And then I sold 150 in the first three days and then I sort of let Amazon do its thing. I kind of sat back for a minute and just see, okay, is this going to convert on its own? And it did and it was like two or three a day. And so, okay, I’m going to still take a while as you get more sales and as I kept promoting it in different ways and then I use also, Amazon has their own paper click product. So I started paying for clicks to my product, getting more reviews, almost all organic Amazon sales.

Speaker 1:           Okay, so you’re paying, you’re charging $25 for the jump rope. And this is for retail?

Mark:                    That’s correct.

Speaker 1:           And how much does it cost you from the manufacturer?

Mark:                    [inaudible 00:24:08] minus shipping costs. It’s about three dollars and 50 cent.

Speaker 1:           So $3 and 50 cents that’s a good margin. Now how much does it cost to ship per jump rope?

Mark:                    So I look at it like this. So there’s a bunch of people that the product itself, they’re shipping it from China to the warehouses and Amazon. Then there’s all the Amazon fees. There’s Amazon takes it straight up commissioned 15% commission. Then they have, are you sold it on Amazon fee, which I think is the buck. And then I pick and pack fee. So all in all I would think of my margin is about 45%

Speaker 1:           okay. So if I stopped all in fees and that’s all in your marketing or the ad or the paid traffic you’re doing on Amazon itself.

Mark:                    That’s everything.

Speaker 1:           Okay, cool. I think that’s doable. That at least in my mind, breaks it down a bit better to where it’s not like, oh my God, I have no idea how to do this. The thing that’s still a bit unclear is I think Alibaba finding your guy in China, but there are other guys in China that are out there. They’re young American guys. I’ll show you guys that went out to China specifically to do this for people. So there are guys out there right now looking to do this exactly. You may get someone that’s a little less experience or a little more experience, but there are other guys out there doing this today. So I think that’s doable. Now, what were some sticking points for you or points you got to where you were like, oh my God, I don’t know how I’m going to be able to get this done.

Mark:                    Well, I mean that’s like, that’s a good question. So there’s a million sticking points and in order for the pilot to get all the way to Amazon, I just kept thinking, how do I keep moving forward? So when a problem comes up, I’m like, how can I squash this as quickly as possible? For instance, just as an example, a UPC code. You know what, I’ve never sold a product before. I know Products have UPC codes. I don’t know what it is or where they come from or how to use them. And I just started asking people in the Facebook communities that talk about selling, how do you do this and how do you ship from China to America? And it just was just like one step at a time and just squashing little sticky points all along the way.

Speaker 1:           Okay, so you brought it up to the point where you’re making $5,500 in net profit per month. The cool thing about this is that they’re your brand, right? And what’s your brand name?

Mark:                    Wide Nation.

Speaker 1:           So Wide Nation is your brand and now you’re just doing jump ropes. But your Facebook page is Wide Nation. You’ve got a website with Wide Nation. Obviously you can start branching into other products, which I’d imagine you’re doing here in the near future.

Mark:                    Yes. I think there’s a lot of philosophies on how to sell on Amazon. Many people just find OEM products that they slap their logo on and they sell it on their Amazon store. So one person could be selling key rings as well as backpacks as well as lawn chairs and umbrellas. No real brand cohesiveness. I went the other way where I want to build a bunch of products that fit into a brand because I think just in my mind it just works better. First of all, I think it’s easier to sell if I ever want to do that. And second of all, there’s just the products play off each other. Oh you like a jump rope, you probably want wrist wraps, you know how you write.

Speaker 1:           I like your approach. It’s crazy to me, but I’m a reading about these guys in on the east coast of the US somewhere that we’re doing like eight figures a month though, selling kind of the random products. So they’re not branded at all. You would never know who these guys are, they’re selling these little random electronics products on Amazon. So you can do it the other way. I prefer this way though, and it seems to me that because you’re a niche down, like it’s cheaper to acquire those customers. And if you’re selling them the jump rope, you’re going to be able to keep those customers by selling them additional products and improve the lifetime value of the customers that you have by selling around them. Some of the other things that are understood that?

Mark:                    That’s my hope.

Speaker 1:           Cool. Okay, so you’ve got the product up, it’s making a little bit of money and then all of a sudden you do actually end up flying to China. You did all this pre, you’re visiting China. What was your reasoning for actually going there? Like why bother?

Mark:                    Yeah, so China to me I grew this business and I would have been sort of this black box, meaning I would sort of place my order, I crossed my fingers and see what came out the other end. And that’s again plays back to the whole why reason why I got it. Add sensors, it’s a little bit frightening. I don’t know what’s going on back there. So I happened to meet some guys in the dynamite circle who also live in China and the can’t unfair is going on right now. So they said, hey, come up and we’ll teach you how to do the Canton fair and then we’ll teach you how to talk to manufacturers and really get a much better idea of how this process works.

Speaker 1:           Prefer anyone listening to the Canton fair is kind of the annual place to be. If you’re at all sourcing products in China, they have warehouses, huge warehouses where all the people are kind of showing their wares and showing you what they’re capable of doing in their factory. And you decided to go to this to go check it out and get product ideas and see, you know, explore some of the product ideas that you had. And you’d met a couple of people that had done this before and said, hey, we’ll show you how to do it.

Mark:                    That’s exactly right. And yes, the Canton fair is way overwhelming. It is three or four football fields full of boots of people selling everything.

Speaker 1:           This is bags, this is metal shop work. This is everything.

Mark:                    It’s all categorized. So you’re not going to walk from a shoe guy to a nice manufacturer. But I think at the time I went, it was things like a sports and outdoors. There was food products, there was medical, there was shoes. So you get quite a range of … and it’s fun to walk around because you just have no idea what the opportunities are out there.

Speaker 1:           So did you get some product ideas just by walking around, like going booth to booth and seeing that, oh I think my audience might be interested in this.

Mark:                    I didn’t necessarily find new products from my audience. I kind of know the products I want to make for my audience, but I did get a whole ton of other ideas. Like we were talking about, like I could put my label on this, maybe a different label, maybe not wide Nation, but just something I thought, well this is really cool. I could sell this camping match, this cook stove, you know, wild stuff. Now I’m not saying I’m going to start doing that right now, but it’s really fun to get your imagination going.

Speaker 1:           Okay. Do you need a translator or can you just walk around speaking English and [inaudible 00:30:23]

Mark:                    Yeah. I think basically the owners of these factories roll out their best English speakers to the booth. Now that doesn’t mean that they’re super fluent, but we can communicate.

Speaker 1:           Good enough. Okay. All right, so you’re doing the Canton fair store. Are you doing it with other people? Is it just you wanted around?

Mark:                    I went with a few other people and at first we all walked around together, but we all had different interests. Right? So we kind of split off, and I’ll tell you what man, walking the fair is just exhausted because miles and miles of rows of vendors. Right. And it’s really fun to just keep walking and just keep talking, talking and come three days of that and is exhausting.

Speaker 1:           Yeah, I bet man, sounds pretty tiring. I’ve talked to other people in the band and yeah, you need like a break from your, your China trip afterwards. So it’s for someone that’s at all interested in doing this. I said, look, I’m going to create a brand, I’m going to do the audience. Do you still recommend doing the kind of Facebook page approach first to get an audience? Is that the really the best way to go about it? Do you think?

Mark:                    So here’s the other people are doing it who don’t have a Facebook page. And like I said, the goal is to get ranked. So what some of the big guys out there are teaching is you want to sell a bunch of products right away. So people are selling their products at a major discount and even a loss. So they’ll sell their product for $1, and they’ll run Facebook ads to an audience to get people to Click on the Facebook ad and buy the product for a dollar. Right? It’s, so that’s one way to do it. And that costs a lot of money. And my way of doing it didn’t cost me anything. In fact, I still made some money.

Speaker 1:           So if I have a product, let’s say that I’m selling for retailing at 100 bucks or an offer or having manufactured for somewhere between 10 and $20 maybe I’m running some Facebook ads. I’m selling it at 10 $20 or just above, just enough to cover my marketing costs just to get the sales through the door and this is not something obviously a pricing at an Amazon just giving a really fat coupon so that I get enough sales to where it says, oh, this is relevant for these types of people. Let me start giving us some traction. Some love on Amazon searches.

Mark:                    That’s right.

Speaker 1:           How long does it take? About a month. Does it take a week? How long would it take to start getting that kind of attraction?

Mark:                    I started getting traction in the first week.

Speaker 1:           Okay. Are there any like requirements the Amazon like it can’t be like, what if, I dunno, like someone looks the paint and they their kid dies or something like that. Is there anything like, are you worried about that at all? Is there any concern about that?

Mark:                    There is a million t’s and C’s and Amazon. I would encourage you not to. Yes, definitely worry about them. But don’t let that stop you. There’s warning labels that need to go on bags. There’s, you know, certain codes or barcodes that need to go on the packaging. But you can learn that.

Speaker 1:           Cool. And so you’re selling your product from Amazon. A lot of the searches are actually coming through Amazon. Have you found any other scalable ways to send traffic to your Amazon page yet?

Mark:                    Yeah, so to be honest, I haven’t tried because I’ve always had limited inventory. And so, well, you know, first started out with 500 and 1500 and 3000 and the big goal is how did not sell out too quickly. I know that’s a luxury problem. But now I just, I just made my last order, which is, should be an Amazon the next few days for 5,000 units. Right. So now I have enough that I think I believe will get me through the Christmas season and give me some leeway to play with maybe some Facebook ads strategy, maybe even some youtube ad strategy, maybe some ad words, marketing.

Speaker 1:           So you’re going to start playing around with this heading into the holiday season. I’d imagine January, February, it would be pretty big for you. Maybe even bigger than Christmas because of kind of the workout craze, you know, with the new year’s resolutions and that kind of thing. I think it’s really interesting. So you’re up to 5,000 units. This is one of the again, a luxury problem, but this is one of the problems with, you know, ecommerce source goods products is that, you know, as you’re growing, you’re constantly having that cash flow problem. So you’re constantly going, okay, well I just made all this profit, let me just reinvest in product. I got all this profit that we reinvest in products. So you’re constantly reinvesting profits into inventory. Are you at the point now where you’ve actually been able to take some cash out or are you still just reinvesting in the products? So you’re getting your inventory up?

Mark:                    Yeah. So going to invest everything and I probably will do for quite some time because I want to add new products to the lineup.

Speaker 1:           So until you get to the point where it starts making like re like real crazy dollars and cents, like you’ll like, it doesn’t even matter. You’ve got other side gigs going on there bring in some cash. So for you this is just get it to a point where it’s at scale and then you can start realizing some profits and start, you know, taking off the top, right?

Mark:                    Yeah. I don’t even know when that’s gonna happen. I live in Thailand, right? So I can go a really great life or very little. So the idea back into inventory is not a problem.

Speaker 1:           The idea is if you can build this out to something that’s fairly massive, are fairly significant at some point in the future, you’ll be in a position to do that. I think that’s cool that that’s kind of how we did the niche site stuff is that it wasn’t a big thing for us or it wasn’t our primary breadwinner, so we didn’t mind like reinvesting into scaling the process out and building more sites. So I think that gives you an opportunity. You have the luxury of reinvesting profits into growing the business to where you can build it to where it’s something really significant.

Mark:                    Absolutely. I mean, I have dreams of kicking off 20 grand a month in profit.

Speaker 1:           Sweet buddy. So you’ll need about $45,000 a month in sales where that puts you at like probably 1500 1800 units a month?

Mark:                    Yup. It’s totally possible.

Speaker 1:           Nice Buddy. Needed about 60 a day?

Mark:                    60 a day. They would do it.

Speaker 1:           60th day buddy. Well, let’s have you back on the show. I want to do on 60th day. I’d love to hear about it when you’ve added more products. Anything I probably should have asked you during this interview that I wasn’t able to get to write. I didn’t think of?

Mark:                    You know, for anybody who’s listening, who’s thinking about doing this, you know, I encourage you, I think right now as the wild west with Amazon, yes, there’s a lot of people getting on board. I still think there’s a ton of opportunities and although it may seem overwhelming, you know, just keep taking one step at a time. It’s totally possible.

Speaker 1:           It’s interesting that, what did they call this, the for sale by Amazon or that, what’s the terminology for this?

Mark:                    It’s called FBA fulfilled by Amazon.

Speaker 1:           Thanks so much. It’d be on the show man. I really appreciate having you on and you’re sharing your information with us. We’re going to go ahead and definitely put a link to odd nation, your Facebook page. We’ll come check out and also your jumper up on Amazon so they can take a look at that as well. Thanks so much man.

Mark:                    Right on. Justin. Thank you.

Speaker 2:           You’ve been listening to the empire podcast now some news and updates.

Speaker 1:           Well I really hope you appreciate that interview with mark. It was miserable getting that done. The first time we tried to record it, we were in, he was in China and I was in Bangkok and the Internet kept dropping on us. Had to cancel, try to do it the next night. That didn’t work for either of us. Finally, got the recording done in like eight different parts because the recordings were so bad. That’s what we get for trying to do this. He’s an in Chiang Mai right now and in Bangkok. That’s what we give her trying to do this from Asia. So pause size for the crappy recording. Hopefully you got some good value out of it

Speaker 3:           On the road baby. Sometimes you just gotta make it work.

Speaker 1:           Yeah and actually that’s our first news and update. We are back in Asia, man. I am in Bangkok, Herman, the Thong Lor area, which is really nice. Really Trendy. You were in Manila, you’re back into found out buddy.

Speaker 3:           Yes I am.

Speaker 1:           So yeah, we are back in. It’s nice to be back man. I, you know it was good. Spent some time in the US as good to me. I’ll put some customers, some other brokers and spending some time out there. But I feel a little more at home out here, man. It, it’s nice to be back.

Speaker 3:           It’s nice to be back as well. I’m definitely seeing that devours become too small for me though. And I can’t wait to get to a little bit larger of a town, but it’s nice to be back in Asia.

Speaker 1:           Yeah, buddy. Maybe we’ll meet up in [inaudible 00:38:21] man in late November, early December. I’m hoping that happens. I know we’ve got a bunch of buddies out there that would love to see us, you know, come out there and get to hang out. Speaking of which man, I flew back first class, my first time ever flying first class international. I flew back like a boss dude. It was Japan Airlines. I felt like they were flying the plane just for me. Like literally like I was on a private jet across the Pacific. It might be hard to go back from that man. Honestly, I had a business class ticket on the next hop and it just, it didn’t, it wasn’t the same complaining about international business. But yeah, first class was the bomb dude.

Speaker 3:           Yeah, I saw the pictures on Facebook. Man. Looked pretty tight. Not as good as the Singapore Airway’s your entire suite to yourself, which I don’t know if you’ve seen it.

Speaker 1:           Oh my God. Yeah, like where you take both seats and they lay down and kind of connect together. It’s like you have like a double bed or whatever. It’s insane dude.

Speaker 3:           It’s like a train. You had your own room. It’s pretty ridiculous. A bathroom and everything.

Speaker 1:           Talking about mile high club man, you get in there with your girlfriend or wife. I don’t man, that would be the spot they had versa. But yeah, look pretty sweet y’all. We’ll link to that. Actually the medium articles. Really cool. We also have a bunch of new websites and vetting right now, so we’ve got almost 20 websites that had been submitted to us and I think a lot of this had to do with our travels. I was traveling around explaining to sellers our value proposition and exactly how our process works. And now we’re reaping those rewards. We’ve got to almost 20 sites that are inventing that should be popping up and available for sale here in November. So if you’re looking to purchase, I mean this would be a good month to do so, there’ll be a plenty of sites for you to dig through and choose from.

Speaker 3:           Yeah, I definitely think that’s a lot of it had to do with us networking and getting out there and getting people know what we do. But you know what? I really think in looking at the people who are submitting these sites that have came from recommendations. So it’s not people we actually met, but people recommend it to other people. So it’s interesting because we did have a lot of foreigners or people that I didn’t meet in person.

Speaker 1:           Yeah. I think meeting these people that like they, we can build rapport with them, they build rapport with us, and they have no problem recommending us because they’ve met us. They kind of know where we’re coming from. I think that’s helpful. Another piece of our business that’s kind of interesting is that, you know, it’s really streaky, and we knew this, we knew this about the brokerage business, but we had by far our best month, it’s September and probably our worst month in a while in October. So we’re hoping November picks it back up. But it is very streaky and this just has to do with kind of timing and you know, it’s a real, what have you done for me lately in business? How many websites have you sold this month because that’s going to determine your ultimately how much revenue you’re bringing in this month.

Speaker 3:           Yeah, it’s very volatile for sure. But I mean that’s just the nature of the business and I think we have an advantage there and the fact that we don’t just depend on going whale hunting all day long, we can survive on the little fish as well. So that kind of distinguishes us to the US from the other brokers and I’m looking to grow that base as we move up.

Speaker 1:           Speaking of whale hunting, we’re actually starting to get some larger sites. We spend a lot of time with the last couple of weeks talking to sellers, talking to our customers about what we can do to, you know, make a sellers feel comfortable selling a 200 300 $400,000 site with us. And you know, I think it was our positioning. Like we, when we came out of the gate and started empire Flippers, we were saying 10 to a hundred thousand that’s our space.

                                And if you listen to other interviews with me, that’s kind of what I was mentioning. And as we move up that value chain, we’re seeing that we don’t have to be stuck at a hundred in fact, we have buyers looking for sites, you know, starting at a $100,000 so, you know, it was a nice positioning move. But I think we’re trying to backtrack from that now and we’re finding that that’s taking time, and we’re having to explain to sellers no. We can actually do sites that are larger.

                                So it’s an interesting positioning move that we made, and you know, we’re having to back away from that a bit now. All right, but let’s get into our listeners. Shout section or indulgent ego boosting social proof segments. First up we’ve got on Twitter, Danielle Bozana said, hey guys, any news on the hooch human event? I’ll be in that area around that date. I’m actually heading to Holcim in November 20th. I know Joe, you’re going to follow up maybe late November, early December.

Speaker 3:           Yeah, I was trying to be there by thanksgiving. I’m not sure if that’s going to happen, but yeah, December for sure.

Speaker 1:           So let’s try and do something maybe first worst case, second week of December and Hachi man, I’d love to throw a workshop. There are at least some kind of meet up with people that aren’t hachi men. We’ll make sure that happens, and we send the message out and we’ve got Rebecca Boulevard, you know, said retweeted our last episode of south one 14 said how to buy a website without any cash. And she said it definitely got the wheels turning. Glad that word for you, Rebecca. I think there’s a lot of opportunity and looking for, you know, ways that you can either reach for a site that’s kind of outside of your current budget or uh, you know, actually purchase a site without any of your own cash. If you can get a low enough interest rate and you’re looking at a big enough opportunity, I think there’s value there.

                                All right buddy. Let’s look at some zen desk tickets. We’ve got from a deposit or who ended up not purchasing the site and got a refund. Jack said good, he’s satisfied. He’s still exploring our service, but so far the experience has been very good. I’m looking forward to doing business with you in the near future. I think it helps a lot, Joe, when you know, we do get these depositors and we refund them right away. They go, okay. They get to see the site, they get to take a look and they kind of learn our process a bit and it makes a second or third go round a much easier and explore their opportunity and it makes it a lot easier for them. Just go ahead and make that purchase they’ve been looking for.

Speaker 3:           Yeah. You know, Mike and I were talking about the whole deposit process too, and he definitely helps customers get to know us, get to know that we’re good at handling money and at the next time they pay us and pay for a site. It makes us more confident in the entire process.

Speaker 1:           Yeah. I’ve been beaten up for the deposit process by other brokers and also people that aren’t customers and that’s just the thing. They’re not our customers. They were probably never going to buy it from us in the first place. So if they’re being a sub about the deposit process, I don’t particularly care. Good luck right from the peanut gallery. So, yeah, I dunno. I pause the process. It does seem, I think if you’ve never done business with us and don’t know who we are, it does seem a little odd, but I mean for most savvy, you know, buyers, they’re going to realize that if we were scamming people out of deposits, that wouldn’t be a very viable business model. We might get away with one or two or maybe four or five deposits that we can run away with here in Asia, but that wouldn’t be very sustainable for us long term.

                                We get another ticket from Ryan. It was actually bad or unsatisfied and zen desk. He said, I love Empire Flippers and I’m not unsatisfied. I got my meeting with Mike scheduled for tomorrow. However, I think you guys should consider an automatic email sent to interested sellers that walks them through the exact process of selling with you. Having as a video would be awesome. Basically set your meeting with Mike, you discuss x, Y and Z. Provide these details. Get your site listed transition. At the moment I don’t even know what my conversation with Mike is about and why you can’t just do it via email. I’m happy to verify myself as I know you like to do. I just feel a bit in the dark.

                                Hopefully that feedback helps you improve your customer experience. Appreciate it, Ryan. Yeah, I think probably walking sellers through the process a bit more so they understand exactly what the next step is and the step after that is a good idea because I’ve heard this feedback a couple of different times. I think probably right after they pay the listing fee, they get a bit more feedback about exactly what’s going to happen to the process.

Speaker 3:           Yeah. I’ve heard the same thing as well, but yeah, I coulda sworn we’ve done both a blog post and a podcast on how to explain this on how to prepare your site for sale, but maybe we need to make that more front and center as great content for sellers to look at.

Speaker 1:           Well, think about this. Let’s say you read that blog post three months ago. It’s not top of mind. Now you’re looking to sell your site. You’re like, the empire flippers sell stuff. I go over there and check out their listing fee and pay, but I that blog posts from three months ago, six months ago probably it’s like not right at the top of my mind and I’m not going back searching it out unnecessarily. So yeah, probably an automated email they get that explains a process would help. We’ve got a couple of blog mentions we got mentioned as one of 22 experts over wage freedom.com he actually took some time to read through all of the different content or all the different authors and point out some of the favorite posts or podcasts and some great blog posts to kind of get you started with each. So we were up there with some buddies, you know like Dan and Ian over the tropical MBA and other guys like Tim Ferriss. So it was really I think an honor to be a listed among those guys. I’m fans of their work.

Speaker 3:           Cool. Thank you very much.

Speaker 1:           We also did a fun podcast interview with Brandon over@madfineartists.com. Basically just talking about websites is online investments, his assets. He’d done another interview where he talked about basically buying and kind of building up websites and I thought maybe I can provide some kind of followup commentary on looking at websites differently, looking at some at them as assets are investment opportunities and uh, he’s a really sharp dude so if you want to check that out I’ll put a link in the show notes as well. It’s a Brandon over@andmadfylantis.com

Speaker 3:           Yeah. Thank you [inaudible 00:47:34]

Speaker 1:           Lots of for episode one 15 at the Empire podcast. Thanks for sticking with us. Be Back next week with another show. You can find the show notes for this episode and more at empireflippers.com/scratch and make sure to follow us on Twitter at empire flippers. See you next week.

Speaker 3:           Bye everybody.

Speaker 2:           Hope you enjoyed this episode of the Empire podcast with Dustin and Joe. Hit Up Empire flippers.com for more. That’s empireflippers.com thanks for listening.

 

Discussion
Leave a comment
  1. Suresh says:

    All the American Guys and Australian Guys going to China. Stop using these kinds of words Justin and Joe. You guys are getting more more racists hating people from non english speaking countries.

  2. Cody says:

    Great episode. My favourite so far.
    I love Marks approach of selling product he didn’t own on ebay to test his idea.
    I know this isn’t a show on Facebook marketing, but I really wanted to hear more about how he was getting so many likes on his page in the early days. Mark mentioned he was getting likes for 3/4cents.
    If you guys had to recommend a Facebook advertising course/expert to follow, who would it be?
    Cheers and keep up the awesome podcast.
    Cody

  3. rj cid says:

    I digs what you guys do! I am saving up to purchase a site. Currently I have a handful that make me a bit over 1K. I am launching an authority site and will be looking to open a store after listening to your episodes.

    A comment: I help run sites and although I get paid for this, however I feel far from having a full grasp on the business of running a site. I heard your talk with Chris Yates and it sounds like you should have a good know-how of different affiliate programs, selling advertising etc… I would like to get this experience before actually purchasing a site and then learning.

  4. Jim says:

    Terrific podcast!

    Mark / Justin provide a great discussion of his private labeling (branding) journey.

    From identifying a customer pool of individuals with similar intersts, to pilot testing selling to that market pool with someone else’s product, to developing his own branded product to that proven sales model. Mark also discusses benchmarks that he used to measure his success along the way.

    Finding a customer need and filling that need… Business Fundamentals 101… Mark provides simple/clear answers to developing and sourcing a sales channel with solid profit margins.

    Well done!

    -Jim

  5. “Google is really a fickle bitch. Penguins and pandas and all kinds of things.”

    Best!

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